This week winter returned to the United Kingdom and Europe. In the South of London there were severe snow showers and an icy blast of cold air. Many motorists were trapped overnight in their car and public transport was disrupted. Across in Europe the Channel Islands closed their airports and the road networks were badly disrupted. Today the sun is out and the snow has mainly melted and the March to springtime is continuing. The week before the snow, the weather was very mild and everybody expected spring to be on its way, only to be reminded that winter hadn’t yet gone .
Weather forecasts are getting more accurate year on year and the bad weather was predicted. Often the issue is not the weather, but people ignoring the warning. Everyone thought spring was on its’ way and even as the snow was forecast, people went out in their cars unprepared and got stuck in the snow. I suspect if the warning had come in December, when we expect bad weather, people might not have attempted the journey or might have been better prepared.
From this incident, I think one of the biggest enemies of the business continuity manager is complacency in failing to recognise the signs of an impending incident, even if the warning signs and information are there. We don’t expect severe snow storms in Spring, so that’s why many ignored the warnings given or thought it couldn’t possibly happen and that the warning was scaremongering.
Many events or disasters are preceded by warnings but people choose to ignore the warning signs. Before 9/11 there was some intelligence that an attack was being planned, plus the fact that the towers had been attacked before, this made them likely to be attacked again. Due to this the type of attack not having been carried out before, I think hat the perception was that, an attack couldn’t possibly happen and ignored the warnings. “Why would anyone want to crash a plane into a building…?”
Another example is the Nazi invasion of Russia in the Second World War. The Soviets thought, as they had a non-aggression pact with Germany that they wouldn’t be invaded. This was, in spite of all the intelligence reports pointing to an invasion and Nazi rhetoric, which said they wanted a war with Russia. It was the “group think” of the Soviet senior officers and leaders who thought this couldn’t possibly happen and ignored all the warnings, until it was too late and the invasion took place.
As business continuity managers we need to avoid this ‘group think’, conventional wisdom and previous experience and perhaps recognise the warnings of an impending incident even when others ignore the warnings.